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Joint Armenian-Azerbaijani expert group on confidence-building measures agrees to intensify efforts

Joint Armenian-Azerbaijani expert group on confidence-building measures agrees to intensify efforts

The Joint Armenian-Azerbaijani Liaison Group on Confidence-building measures in support of lasting peace in the South Caucasus (JOLIG), made up of 11 Armenian and Azerbaijani independent experts and opinion-shapers, met in Kachreti, Georgia on 27 and 28 June 2022 to review its activity, and agree on a strategy as to how its work on confidence-building measures can contribute to efforts aimed at bringing lasting peace in the South Caucasus. Participants discussed ongoing efforts aimed at establishing the right conditions for the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan being undertaken by the governments of the two countries with the support of international players. They called on the leadership of the two countries to remain focused and committed to this mission. The group emphasised its belief that confidence-building measures are necessary to be implemented in the current state of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, and were indispensable as the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan seek peaceful solutions to long lasting disputes and controversies between them.
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Is the Negev Forum about to become something bigger?

Is the Negev Forum about to become something bigger?

On 27–28 March 2022 in Sde Boker, Israel hosted the foreign ministers of four Arab states – Bahrain, UAE, Egypt and Morocco, as well as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for an unusual summit aimed at putting together a united front of countries concerned with Iran’s destabilising role in the Middle East. By all accounts the meeting appeared to be hastily prepared, and lacking proper focus. A lot of the serious fault-lines of the region emerged in the meeting too, including different perspectives on the Palestinian question and relations with Russia. But the participants did agree that they want to turn their meeting into a permanent process, and so the creation of the Negev Forum was announced. Now, it seems, the six countries have taken the first step to making this platform a regional player. On Monday (27 June) senior officials from the foreign ministries of Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States held the inaugural meeting of the Negev Forum Steering Committee in Manama, Bahrain. The Committee’s main objective is to further coordinate collective efforts and advance a common vision for the region. In this context, they outlined a framework document for the Negev Forum, setting out the objectives of the Forum, and the working methods of its four-part structure: the Foreign Ministers’ Ministerial, the Presidency, the Steering Committee, and the Working Groups.
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A busy week for western leaders as they prepare the next steps in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine

A busy week for western leaders as they prepare the next steps in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine

It is a busy week for Western leaders, as they prepare the next steps in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. The leaders of the G7 - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the Untied Kingdom, together with the European Union - started a summit meeting in Germany on Sunday. Later this week they will travel to Madrid for a summit meeting of NATO countries. The G7 meeting is taking place at a Castle in Germany’s Bavarian Alps were leaders went out of their way on Sunday (26 June), to show that they are united against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine while discussing ways to minimize the war’s effect on rising global food and energy costs. U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met ahead of formal talks that also included the leaders of Britain, France, Canada, Italy, Japan and the European Union. Scholz said, "Germany and the U.S. will always act together when it comes to questions of Ukraine's security, and we made that clear once more." In a pre-summit show of force, Russia launched new missile attacks Sunday on Ukraine’s two biggest cities, the capital of Kyiv and Kharkiv, even as the G-7 leaders held talks to determine new ways to isolate Moscow. Biden announced the G-7 nations would ban new imports of Russian gold, the latest in an array of sanctions Western nations have imposed on Russia in an attempt punish it for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, now in its fifth month.
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Commentary
Commentary: A historic decision leaves Ukrainians delighted, Moldovans ecstatic and Georgians grumpy

Commentary: A historic decision leaves Ukrainians delighted, Moldovans ecstatic and Georgians grumpy

the European Council which gathers the 27 EU member states and the institutions, agreed to give Ukraine and Moldova candidate status with immediate effect. It gave Georgia "a membership perspective", with candidate status in the future if they can get their act together quickly. The Ukrainians were delighted. President Zelensky described it as a victory and promised not to rest until Russia’s defeat and full membership had been secured. In Moldova, the pro European government was ecstatic. Things had moved much faster than they had anticipated. In Georgia the situation is different, and the country is somewhat grumpy. Georgians do not  like to be last, and in a sense in this process at which they were until last year at the centre, they find themselves lagging behind the other two trio countries. The government has tried to put on a brave face saying that being given a membership perspective was a victory for Georgia too. The opposition accuses the government of squandering a historic opportunity which will have long lasting impact. In many ways both are right. An EU membership perspective is important for Georgia, even if it is largely an abstract term. It consolidates the relationship. But it would have been much better for Georgia if they had been given candidate status with the others. The ball is now in the court of the Georgian politicians, and the world will be watching.
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Opinion
Opinion: Israel and Lebanon move towards resolving a long standing dispute on their maritime border

Opinion: Israel and Lebanon move towards resolving a long standing dispute on their maritime border

There are reports that the US may be about to broker a deal between Israel and Lebanon, resolving a long-standing dispute about their maritime border and the exploitation of two large oil and gas fields in the Levantine Basin. Amos Hochstein, the US Senior Advisor for Energy Security, this month mediated indirect talks between the two countries, who technically are still at war with each other, and have no formal diplomatic relations in an attempt to resolve the issue. After his meetings in Lebanon last week, it seemed that a breakthrough had finally been reached, when the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, reportedly presented a unified position on behalf of the government, which offered the prospect for a compromise This new proposal would create an S shaped maritime border, granting Lebanon access to the whole of the Qana field, while leaving Israel the entirety of Karish. In the past, the lack of agreement within the Lebanese government, and its unwillingness to compromise had been the key factors holding back negotiations, and this new approach led Hochstein to strike an optimistic note, saying that Lebanon had taken “a very strong step forward”. The US Energy advisor will now relay the offer to Israel and await a response. Both countries stand to gain from a swift and peaceful resolution to this decade long problem which has prevented them from extracting any value out of the fields. 
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The great Saudi-Turkish restart

The great Saudi-Turkish restart

After years of dispute during which relations fell to a historical low, Turkey and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday sealed a restart in their relations during a state visit to Turkey by the Kingdom's Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman. The turquoise carpet was laid out at the presidential palace in Ankara as the Crown prince arrived to be greeted by Turkey's president, Recip Tayip Erdogan. The two men held discussions on bilateral relations and regional and international issues. But this visit was mainly about symbolism. The substance had already been sorted over weeks and months of discussions involving senior officials from the two countries. President Erdogan was himself in Saudi Arabia only a month ago. But the visit of Mohammad bin Salman to Ankara had huge symbolic significance and it marked the final act in a process that saw the two countries draw back from years of animosity, rooted mainly in different perspectives on the future of the Middle East and the broader Islamic world. Both countries see themselves as leaders in the region, as well as a beacon for Muslims worldwide. Prior to visiting Turkey, the Saudi Crown Prince also visited Egypt and Jordan. In a few weeks time he will welcome in Riyadh US President Joe Biden, in a final act that will see the complete rehabilitation of the heir to the Saudi throne who had been caught in international controversy.